Asia Cup: Let's applaud Bangladesh's Second Liberation! Born - 1971; Reborn - 2012
The performance of Mushfiqur Rahim and his boys was, in essence, the Second Liberation of the nation, and the cricketers were the Mukti Bahini of 2012 © AFP

 

By Rajesh Ramaswamy

 

The Asia Cup is over and Bangladesh has won! If you, kind reader, are wondering if I’ve just announced my candidature to the local loony asylum, or have been partaking of the principal produce of Myanmar, perish the thought. Bangladesh won big time, even if they lost a cliff-hanger in the final. What they won was respect, and, in the process of standing up to their neighbourhood bullies, got a very heavy monkey off their back. The performance of Mushfiqur Rahim and his boys was, in essence, the Second Liberation of the nation, and the cricketers were the Mukti Bahini of 2012. In one fell swoop, they shed the chains that tagged them not just as perennial underachievers, but also as pretentious gatecrashers at a party for big boys, even if they themselves were the hosts. To be fair, those tags weren’t misplaced, for they’d earned them by squandering all the goodwill of their fans, and their innate talent, by routinely under-performing. But with this latest campaign, they have equally earned the tag of ‘fighters’ and have repudiated the belief that they were toothless tigers. 

They waged a war for honour and acceptance, and didn’t just fight courageously but also strategically. This they did by breaking from the convention of being merely a guerrilla force which won the odd skirmish, but lacked the stamina and vision to win a sustained operation: they combined their native derring-do with discipline, and this victory owed as much to the lads in the trenches as it did to the backroom brass. There was a new sense of purpose and even the cowboys at the top of the order had buckled down to contribute blood, sweat and tears… not just a pleasing drive or pull that’d play to the galleries. There was a pleasing discipline about whatever they did, and that pleasant hue of rigour was important to the Bangladesh’s success.

This is where Dave Whatmore comes in useful, for he will understand that the Asian warrior chafes at the yoke, and will thrive under an egalitarian leadership rather than one whose mojo is derived from Sparta. For inspiration, we don’t have to look beyond Genghis Khan’s legendary band of brothers who responded to leadership with a light touch and swept all before them because they had bought into a common vision, and chose to follow a leader they looked up to.

The second coming of Bangladesh cricket and its birth as a cricketing nation, will, hopefully, build on the lessons of nation-building and not repeat the mistakes of 1971, when, after the euphoria of liberation, the politicians upstaged the statesmen and liberators, and 40 years hence, haven’t nursed Bangladesh to the prosperity it deserved.

This achievement of their team is the perfect launch pad to put in place a system of glasnost and perestroika in the cricketing firmament, and ensure that a strong and visionary leadership takes charge and doesn’t allow the parasitic politicians and freeloaders to worm their way in. After all, there’s a lot more at stake than Bernard Shaw’s dismissive belief that it’s merely a game played by eleven fools and watched by 11,000 similarly affected others. What will be played out is the articulation of a few million dreams, and how that dream is nurtured and ignited on the field of play, could well determine what the world hears: a mighty roar, or a meek whimper.

I, for one, believe that this is the Year of the Tiger, and that the game can do with a fresh and forthright Bangla voice. Bangladesh cricket owes it to itself, and to the world’s most passionate and patient supporters, to build on this success and liberate the aspirations of an entire nation.

Many years down the line, I’d love to stumble upon a commemorative plaque in downtown Dhaka that reads:

Bangladesh

Born – 1971; Reborn – 2012.

(Rajesh Ramaswamy is a former fast bowler who believes he could have been the answer to India’s long prayer for an ‘express’ paceman. He regularly clocked speeds hovering in the late 80′s and occasionally let fly deliveries that touched the 90′s. Unfortunately for him, the selectors were talking ‘mph’, while he was operating in the metric lane with ‘kmph’. But he moved on from that massive disappointment which resulted from what he termed a ‘miscommunication’, and became a communications professional. After a long innings in advertising as a Creative Director, he co-founded a brand consulting firm called Contrabrand. He lives in Chennai and drives down to work in Bangalore… an arrangement that he finds less time consuming and stressful than getting from one end of Bangalore to the other)